The final day of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek begins a few kilometers from the twin lake in the meadows. We enter the Naranag forest area after passing through the government guest house. The hiking trail winds through the pine forest all the way down to the historic Naranag temple complex. This section of the trail has been well-known since ancient times as Mt Harmukh and the twin lake are sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites. This trail is also ideal for a weekend getaway.
Trekking from Gangabal to Naranag was an entirely new experience for me. It began with a walk through the meadows and ended with a long, steep descent through the Naranag Pine forest. It was a rainy day with visibility as low as 10 meters in some places.
Distance between Naranag and Gangabal
The distance between Gangabal and Naranag is approximately 11 to 12 kilometers, and you will be trekking from an elevation of 11,600 feet to 7,500 feet. On the final day of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, it’s all downhill with no ascent. The final lake is Gangbal / Nundkol (twin lake). So, once you’ve had your fill of Gangbal Twin Lake, it’s time to pack your belongings and begin Day 7 of your trek.
Crossing the stream
Day 7 trekking begins with a crossing of a small stream near the Gangbal campsite. This is followed by a small gradual ascent and a long flat walk through the meadows. To the left is a deep valley with a stream, and to the right is what appears to be a river of boulders. On a rainy day, visibility can be poor. Continue walking until you reach the government guest house. This is the location where you will find some human activities after 7 days of trekking.
Guest House in the middle of nowhere
The pine forest begins shortly after the guest house, and there is a man-made trail that leads all the way to Naranag. The path is not continuous, and there are mud trails that can be difficult to navigate when it rains. On day 7, it rained, and the entire trail was muddied. The majority of them had their cameras inside, and no one had the patience to bring their camera out on the final day, especially after trekking for 7 days.
A hut in the middle of pine forest
There were small streams along the trail that were suitable for filling our water bottles. There was once a Maggie noddles shop. Our entire trekking party dashed into this small shop/hut. It was raining and cold outside. However, we were fortunate to find some buns, hot Maggie noodles, and tea in a small hut. This is where you get your first phone signal, and I called home to let them know everything was fine.
We resumed our descent after a brief rest. The scenery was simply stunning. Our local guide informed us that there had been a forest fire a few months prior, and we happened to be there at the right time to see all of the half-burned trees and greenery. Because it had rained for a few days, the burnt trees had young, fresh green shoots.
Ideal weekend getaway
Gangabal is a popular trekking destination and is well-known for a weekend trek from Naranag. As you descend, you will see many trekkers ascending who are on their way to Gangabal for the weekend. There aren’t many vantage points on the way down (not man-made). The view from here is unrivaled, as is the view from Naranag Forest above. There are some wild bright yellow flowers in the forest and above. Trekking on a rainy day may be difficult on this trail because it will be too slippery and muddy. Unless you’re like me, keep your camera in your backpack.
The zig-zag trail continues all the way down, and as you walk further down, you can hear the water flowing from the stream/river far below. The final stretch is a man-made trail that leads to Naranag village, which serves as the base camp for trekkers climbing Mount Haramukh/Gangbal. After seven days of trekking, the majority of them are exhausted.
Historic Naranag temple complex
Don’t forget to stop by the ruins of an 8th century Shiva temple, which are only 50 meters from the finish line. This temple is a popular tourist destination and one of India’s most important archaeological sites. Taxis are available from this location, which is approximately 4 hours from the Srinagar airport. Take a look at this video.